For those who don’t know, the free-to-play iteration of LotRO launched a couple of days ago. I’ve been fooling with it a bit.
As long-time readers likely know, LotRO is a game I admire but have never really been able to get into, for a couple of firm reasons and a few intangibles. However, the new payment model is ideal for me as a potential LotRO player, because now I can fiddle with it at my leisure, without being tied to Turbine’s occasional free weekends, or having to subscribe to do so – something I’d be very unlikely to do given my history with the game, even were money not an object.
As far as getting seriously into LotRO, it seems to me that it’d be pretty difficult to do on a budget of few or zero dollars. This is unlike D&D Online, which you can play pretty much forever for free, since virtually all of the content (a few loose non-dungeon quests being the exceptions,) is repeatable. Sure, it’s nice to drop a few bucks on DDO Store stuff – and I have – but you can play for very little while only slightly hindering your game experience.
The way the free content vs. paid content system in LotRO works basically stops you dead around level 20 or so, because you lose access to the bulk of the quests once you’re in that level neighborhood. You can continue to play, and you can even keep leveling and doing the epic questline, but in order to do so you’ll be doing an assload of grinding in between epic quests. You can gather crafting materials and such while grinding, and continue to advance in that realm, but gameplay radically changes for the zero-to-low money player at that point.
Now, I’m actually not convinced this is a bad thing – and I definitely think it’s not from Turbine’s standpoint. Folks who play enough LotRO to get to level 20 (a level I personally never got very close to,) probably like the game more than I do, and will be apt to either subscribe or drop money on content packs and other store goodies. The prices on content packs are pretty reasonable, at least individually (generally from $4-$7,) and they contain a great deal of playable content – more, actually, than DDO’s dungeon packs do, even though the DDO content is repeatable and the LotRO stuff isn’t.
So anyway, I intend to continue playing LotRO at a very leisurely pace. We’ll see how well it sticks. I do note a lot of players in the world, along with modest login queues and some fairly serious in-game lag. The combat is still dull – but maybe I’m just playing the wrong classes.